1995 - Colin Rowe 1920 - 1999

Colin Rowe

Copyright: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1990s)

Colin Rowe was born in Yorkshire and studied at the University of Liverpool where he had a profound influence on James Stirling. He was only the second scholar in the 20th century to receive the Royal Gold Medal.


He worked, mainly in the United States, finally becoming a US citizen in 1984, as an architectural historian, critic, theoretician and teacher. His thinking is a major influence on generations past, present and to come on issues of architecture, city planning, regeneration, and urban design. For him modernism was the search for the perfect order and yet it has been said that every architectural movement in the last four decades of the 20th century derived from Rowe’s thinking: the New York Five, deconstructivism, post-modernism, to name but a few.


Awarded the Royal Gold Medal for being 'the most significant architectural teacher of the second half of the 20th century'.
His approach to the history of architecture was highly inventive and exasperated conventional historians, but his work became the inspiration for a generation of practising architects, freeing up their own thinking and allowing them to incorporate their predecessors' ideas into their own designs.

Although he enjoyed the greater degree of academic freedom afforded him by America and he praised the American re-interpretation of classicism, he also introduced to US schools European teaching methods, revolutionising the teaching of design at the University of Texas at Austin. He returned to teach at Cambridge for a not altogether happy four years but during which he taught and heavily influenced a major architect-to-be, Peter Eisenman. There was an immediacy to his teaching and writing typified by the title of his last book 'As I was saying', a collection of conversational essays published in the year of his death.